Put Out into the Deep

Remembering a Man of Peace and Justice

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

As we approach our annual Martin Luther King Jr. weekend celebration, we remember the great civil rights leader who most of all was a Christian preacher who used non-violent actions to promote human rights in the United States. It is unfortunate that many young people today, born after the peak of the civil rights movement and who have never experienced the remarkable life and the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr., seem to misunderstand what was achieved and what still needs to be achieved today.

Most recently, it was truly tragic to see that there were many young white men who participated in the carrying of torches in a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Our country continually needs to learn its lesson regarding racial justice and harmony.

In the Mass of Solidarity and Peace, which I celebrated at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James here in Brooklyn shortly after the incidents in Charlottesville, I proclaimed in my homily that we would begin a commission named after our own Msgr. Bernard J. Quinn, a proponent of equal rights for our black brothers and sisters. This commission would work, first, to investigate any remnants of racism within our Church here in Brooklyn and Queens and second to try to address the racism that we still find in our society as a whole. To that end, I have named Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P., Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, as chairman of the Diocesan Commission on Racism and Social Justice, and Father Alonzo Cox as secretary of the Commission. The following people will serve as members of the Commission: Judge Bert Bunyan, Ms. Michele Guerrier, Deacon Ernest Hart, Judge Robert Miller and Ms. Mary Thompson.

In the next six months, these representatives of our Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens will attempt to outline a program of action for our Diocese.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is in the process of drafting a pastoral letter on racism that will hopefully be voted on in November when all of the Bishops meet in Baltimore, Md. This draft document already includes some very practical points of implementation for dioceses throughout the United States.   Our diocesan commission will study these implementation points and suggest to me, as Bishop, what we can implement and in what manner here in Brooklyn and Queens.

This history of racial inequality, especially the history of slavery in our country, makes it much more difficult to find a balance between justice and civil rights. The unfortunate history of racial inequality in our country will continue to demand some radical corrections.

The effort to address racial equality is certainly an exercise of putting out into the deep waters of our society, where many interests seem to be in conflict. Justice can only be achieved where there is truth in recognizing where injustice exists. We join together as a diocese in self-reflection, to see if we can eliminate racism in all of its forms from our Church and from our society as best we can.

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